LGBT, Latino leaders respond to Orlando massacre

LGBT leaders and community members were in mourning Sunday after a gunman opened fire and killed 50 people at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando.

The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and happened during national pride month, which is celebrated in June. Saturday night was “Upscale Latin Saturday” at Pulse, which invited Latino members of Orlando’s LGBT community to join the club.

LGBT centers are working to provide Spanish-language counseling to people who were affected in Orlando, Hannah Willard, a spokesperson for Equality Florida, said.

“There are many families who are having a hard time, even finding someone who can explain to them what happened because they don’t speak English,” said Willard. “For our community to be a target at this time, it’s heartbreaking. It’s unbelievable. We are still reeling.”

Sleigher Gemini, a performer in Orlando’s drag community, said several of her friends were present at the club on the night of the attack.

“The people that I knew inside were basically family. Performers in our city have a bond unlike anywhere else,” she said. “I stand with my brothers and sisters against this disgust. We will not hide who we are, this is 2016. The world is evolving and so is mankind. There is no reason for bigotry and hate in a time like this.”

Roddy Flynn, executive director of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, offered support for the Orlando community. “The entire LGBT Equality Caucus is horrified by the tragic shooting in Orlando,” Flynn said in a statement. “Though details are still emerging, an attack during Pride Month against Pulse, an iconic gathering place for LGBT Floridians, has a particularly insidious impact on our entire community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Stuart Milk, nephew of gay activist Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, said in a statement that love and prayers were insufficient to address the violence that occurred.

“We send a world of love and prayers to all who are grieving today and to all who will begin the hard journey to recover from untold wounds, both physical and emotional. But our love and prayers are simply not enough. Hate and separation continue to bring forth too much grief, too many stolen lives across the whole world,” he said.

Orlando’s LGBT community spoke out on social media to offer support and resources for the survivors and victims’ families.

The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida said it has counselors available at its hotline.

“The Center is partnering with MBA, Hope and Help, Two Spirit Health, Zebra Coalition, Rollins, and various other GLBT organizations throughout Central Florida to coordinate an emergency hotline and grief counselors on site at The Center, located at 942 N Mills Avenue,” the center said in a Facebook post.

The Los Angeles pride parade began at 10:45 a.m. local time with a moment of silence for the shooting.

Blood centers in Florida are accepting blood donations for those wounded from the attack in Orlando today, but advocates within the LGBT community are warning that FDA rules still forbid some people from contributing. Despite complaints from medical associations, gay and bisexual men are only legally able to donate if they have been celibate for at least one year. Amid the AIDS epidemic in 1983, the FDA had banned donations from all gay and bisexual men, but last year, President Barack Obama’s Administration lifted that ban, with a requirement that donors have been celibate for a year.

Other LGBT and Latino advocates and community members responded on Twitter.

Kamala Kelkar and Andi Wang contributed reporting.